Denmark, here we come, …the birthplace of Google Maps!

When our good friends Alex and Mary Ann invited us on a trip to Denmark, I thought “great, I’ve never been to Scandinavia, the home of Google Maps, Lego and salty liquorice”. When Mary Ann sent me the details, I realised to my horror it was camping in the Western Australia’s south-west town of Denmark.

There’s a pattern developing here.

The Labour day long weekend in Western Australia is the first week of March, not in May like every other place in the world. We took the Friday off to make it an extra long weekend. We set off on Friday morning for the five hour drive to the lovely little town of Denmark. Denmark is situated on the south coast of Western Australia 420km south east of Perth. Its relatively straight drive down Albany Highway turn west at Mt Barker. We’re travelling with two other couples, Alex and Mary Ann and Steve and Annabelle. Alex and Mary Ann’s cheeky 5 year old, Marcus is with us too of course. We stayed at the Big 4 Caravan park in Ocean Beach, which is about 10 minutes outside the main town. Alex and Mary Ann are seasoned campers and have a caravan with all the gear. Steve and Annabelle had a small tent similar to ours. When I say “ours” I mean the tent we borrowed from Alex and Mary Ann.

We arrived first, soon after by Steve and Annabelle and later Alex, Mary Ann and Marcus.

Once we were all set up we congregated at the Pecoraro estate for drinks, nibbles. This flowed on to dinner and we finished the night with Whiskies.

Saturday night we awoke late and a little hungover. After a wake up coffee and bacon and eggs, we set out eager to explore the south coast. First stop was the Valley of the Giants, in particular the Tree Top Walk. The Tree Top Walk is a walking structure that takes you up 40m to view the magnificent Tingle Forest. I had been there before, but this was a first for many in our group. The Red and Yellow Tingle trees are endemic to this region and are impressive in their height, girth and the gnarly shapes of their trunks. After the tree top walk there’s a ground level walk called the Ancient Empire Walk where you can walk through the burnt out trunks of the “giants”.

After leaving the Valley of the Giants we stopped for lunch at the Demark Good Food Factory. The place boasted the best burgers in Australia – which actually wasn’t far from the truth. We all agreed the burgers where first class. Jane and I had their cider tasting paddle. They were quite good, with the highlight being their Jalapeno Cider. They also had a soccer-golf course that looked quite interesting – no time for that though because Steve already had his map out.

Where to next, captain?

The decision of where to go next was an easy choice, as we were all hanging to go to Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool at William Bay. In my opinion these are two of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Huge granite boulders poke out of white sandy beaches and the pristine clear water of the Southern Ocean. It would be perfect if it weren’t for the other tourists being there too. I took my drone and got some stunning shots of the coastline.

We spent a while swimming, taking photos and droning at both beaches.

On our way back to the campsite we visited many of the viewpoints along the south coast, such as Madfish Bay and Waterfall beach. We arrived back at the campsite ready for a shower and something to eat (and drink). Alex got his barbeque out and we ate, drank and talked BS until what felt like the “wee hours” (but more like 9pm). We hit the air mattress ready for tomorrow’s expedition.

Cheers

Sunday after a late breakfast we set out to explore some of the attractions closer to Denmark. First stops were some lookouts around the mouth of the Wilson Inlet. These included Sinker Bay, Black Hole Rock and the Lions lookout. All offering spectacular coastal views.

We then headed up the hill to see the big windmills at Denmark Wind Farm. There’s two giant wind turbines high on the hill. The girls had fun taking photos, while the engineering nerds tried to guess some windmill stats.

We went back into the town itself for lunch. It was actually quite difficult to find somewhere suitable. In the end we got takeaway from various places and sat in the park by the river. Jane and I got pies from the “world famous” Denmark bakery – seems like every town’s bakery is world famous these days. The pies were nice, although Jane’s potato pie was too heavy on the potato.

After lunch we drove up Mt Shadforth. This is the highest point in Denmark and promised good views towards the coast. The drive up the mountain was very nice. Tall Karri trees lined the road. The view from the top, however, was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps we should have been visiting the wineries along the way.

Someone mentioned “chocolate” so we all headed to the Denmark Chocolate Factory. Everyone (except me) ordered expensive hot chocolate which they all enjoyed. I explored the stunning grounds and managed to spot a blue wren. I only had my phone camera and got a blurry photo. (Not worth posting).

The last stop was Monkey Rock. When we got there the signage was non-existent. Jane and I were weary and fearing a long climb we decided to head back to the campsite for a rest (beer). The others pushed on and when they joined us back at the caravan they told us the views were great (of course!).

It was our last night in Denmark so we decided to go out for dinner. Captain Steve did the research and suggested Boston Brewpub. We’d found out during the day our old mate Conrad was also staying in Denmark with his partner Riann. We were yet to met her, so we invited them to join our group from dinner. It was nice to meet Riann and catch up with Conrad. The food at the Boston was great and service very efficient.

Back at the campsite we had a couple more drinks and retired early. Big drive home in the rain tomorrow.

As much as I hate camping, I must admit I had a good time. Big thanks to Alex and Mary Ann for their generosity and organisational (MA) skills. Thanks also to Steve and Annabelle for making a fun group to travel with.

Augusta, here we come, …where’s my golf clubs?

When our good friends Clive and Susan invited us on a trip to Augusta I thought “great, I’d love a few days playing golf at the top-ranked course in Golf Digest‘s 2009 list of America’s 100 greatest courses”. When Clive sent me the details, I realised to my horror it was camping in the Western Australia’s south-west town of Augusta.

–Insert usual thing about Covid-19 and complain about not being able to travel overseas blah blah–

We’re not campers. We don’t have any gear, except for the 2 tin cups Clive gave us for Christmas. Jane was super keen, so we agreed to join them, it was Susan’s 60th birthday celebration after all. Other friends were also coming to give it a party atmosphere.

Augusta is on the very south-west tip of Australia. It’s nestled on the banks of the Blackwood river just before it empties into the junction of the Southern and Indian oceans.

We left Perth Thursday morning for the three and a half hour drive. After stopping for lunch at the Rose Hotel in Bunbury, we arrived around 3pm at Flinders Bay Caravan Park for our four day stay. Clive and Susan were already there and helped us erect our tent. I mentioned before we didn’t have any camping gear, but we borrowed a some items from friends. We did in fact have an air mattress and sleeping bags. Thanks to Mary Ann and Alex for the tent and Annabelle and Steve for the portable fridge. Mary Ann and Alex were to join us on this trip, but cancelled due the ill health of Mary Ann’s sister, Rosie in the Philippines. Sadly, Rosie passed away on Friday.

Susan made a nice stir-fry for dinner in their “camp-kitchen”. After dinner we finished the night with wine, whiskey and cigars.

Friday morning we had breakfast with Clive and Susan. Coffee, bacon and eggs on toast, courtesy of Susan. After breakfast we made our way to the beach, a short walk from the caravan park. The weather was warm, but very windy. That didn’t stop Clive, Susan and Jane going for a swim. It was too cold for me so I took some photos around the rock pools. Unfortunately it was too windy to fly the drone.

After the beach we returned to the caravan park for a shower, then into town for lunch at the Augusta Hotel. Jane and I shared fish and chips, while Clive and Susan had burgers. The view was lovely, overlooking the Blackwood river. The food was nice and the cricket was on TV.

View from the Augusta Hotel

We picked up some supplies from the local IGA and headed back to the caravan park … for a nap.

When we were suitable refreshed we re-joined Clive and Susan to find Janice and her son, James had also arrived. Then a bit later Jenalyn, Sean and their kids arrived. After they were set up, we decided to have an dinner early to secure the BBQ spot overlooking the beach.

We ate and drank to well after dark, until we were all tired. It seemed like a late night, but I think we were all in bed before 10pm.

Saturday was Susan’s 60th Birthday. We got up early for bacon and eggs again. We all went to the beach for a girls birthday photo shoot.

Back at the caravan park, after a shower we congregated at Clive’s campsite for Susan’s birthday lunch. It consisted of French Champagne, chicken, cheeses and meats. Lots of laughs were had and as the champagne, beer and wine flowed the BS became thicker and richer. The celebrations went on until after sunset when we all retired. Tomorrow was the long drive home.

The drive home took longer than usual because part of the freeway was closed due to a bush fire.

Anyway we all got back to our nice beds and showers on Sunday afternoon. Everyone had a good time. It was nice to celebrate Susan’s Birthday in nice surroundings and with great friends. …although golf in Augusta, Georgia, USA would have been spectacular!

Busselton 2020 (not Bali)

Our family had a week booked in Bali in June spanning my 57th birthday. My sons Aidan and Anthony and Aidan’s Fiancee Ena were joining Jane and the girls and I for the usual Bali favourites: relaxing, eating and drinking.

Again, ruined by Covid-19! [Insert frowny/angry/frustrated face emoji]

We decided to re-imagine the vacation in Busselton. We stayed at our usual haunt Busselton Beach Resort.

Aidan, Ena and Anthony arrived Friday night, while Jane, the girls and I arrived lunchtime Saturday. Aidan had been talking up Rocky Ridge Brewing Co at Busselton, so we went there for a (liquid) lunch. Their thing is tasting paddles, because they have abut 26 beers to choose from. Between the six of us I think we have then all covered.

Rocky Ridge selection

They had a big variety. Aidan got a couple of growlers refilled. I left my growler at home much to Aidan’s disgust.

After some basic grocery shopping we headed back the the resort and reacquainted ourselves with the pool and outdoor spa (Jacuzzi). The pool was freezing, but the spa was nice and hot. We had a BBQ for dinner before playing some cards and Jackbox before we crashed around midnight.


Day two (Sunday) started with a traditional Aussie breakfast of bacon, eggs, mushrooms and toast. Aidan and Anthony brought Kayak, so we carried those down to beach after breakfast. I took the drone down and got some nice photos and videos. Its a pity the beach is clogged with seaweed. I know Busselton shire has tried to fix this problem, but I guess the seaweed is here to stay.

We hit the pool again after we returned from the beach.

Aidan wanted to got back to Rocky Ridge, so we went there for lunch. The burgers and wings were very good. We also tried the beers we didn’t try the day before. Later we walked up to the jetty and had another beer at the Goose. We got back the resort for a rest. When we were all ready for dinner we realised most places were already closed (at 7.30!). We drove to the Esplanade Hotel just in time for the kitchen closing. The girls were hinting at MacDonald’s, so we gave in and they got takeaway “McDo” (as they say in the Philippines). We settled in and watched Lachie Neale win the Brownlow medal. Cards and Jackbox were the go after the medal count and we retired to bed exhausted.


Day three (Monday). Ena and Jane promised us a Filipino breakfast, which meant Aidan was up early to go and buy rice. Ena was able to get Beef Tapa, Tocino, Longganisa and hotdogs from her work. There was a mountain of food, but the girls were in heaven and wolfed the lot!

Everyone was keen for a game of golf. Busselton has a nice Par 3 Golf course which is relaxed and casual, perfect for beginners. Aidan and Anthony are experienced golfers and I play occasionally, but the girls had never played before. With seven of us the group it was going to be a long walk. It was actually good fun and everyone enjoyed the experience. I had a good round excepting one hole where I sliced my drive into adjacent houses. I got the “yips” after that and took a 10 for that hole.

A well deserved beer was waiting for us at Beerfarm. Beerfarm is a craft brewer in Metricup which is about a 30 minute drive from Busselton. We got their sample paddles and enjoyed lunch at their restaurant, Burnt Ends. The beers where good, the food was better and the grounds were stunning.

Beerfarm eat and drinks

Back home for a quick rest. Aidan wanted to try his luck with squidding on the jetty. He’s never caught a squid before, so we all got geared up with squid jigs and hit the jetty. Aidan got some luck early and caught a little squid. But sadly that was it for the night. We saw a pod of dolphins and guessed (or used that as an excuse) they chased the squid away.

At sunset I took my new camera down to the smaller jetty to capture some classic Busselton Jetty images.

We had fish and chips (Cod Rocks) for dinner and pretended we caught the fish.

We played cards and Jackbox again until about midnight when we all retired after a long, but immensely enjoyable day.


Day Four (Tuesday) was our wine tour. The bus was picking us up at 9.30. Aidan booked the whole day tour at Cellar d’Or Tours which included four wineries, two breweries and the chocolate factory. Anthony cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast, with some leftover hotdogs and cheese kransky sausage.

Our tour driver Stuart, who we later named “Chewy” was waiting at reception. We had to pick up two other couples from Bunker Bay and Yallingup before we we started the wine quaffing.

First stop was Happs winery. Happs is not your usual wine tasting set up. They had 43 wines set up in a self-service arrangement. Whoa – it was going to be a big day!

The Second winery was Credaro Wines. This name was familiar to Jane as she worked with one the Credaro’s in a previous job – too bad it wasn’t the wine brother!

Lunch was at the Black Brewing Co, which used to hethe Duckstein. Lunch was good with a nice selection of Beers, Wines and Gins. I needed a rest from wine tasting, but Aidan and Anthony tasted them. Aidan got one of his growlers filled there.

Winery number 3 from Bettenays Wine and Nougat. We were all tasting their wines and considering if we should buy a bottle of two. Then they opened the Nougat Liqueur. Everyone just said “wow”. Most of us on the tour bought several bottles of the liqueur – no wine.

A quick trip the Margaret River Chocolate Co before heading to the last winery of the day, Willespie. Willespie was an old fashioned traditional winery with old growth vines. They also still use cork, which is rare these days. “Chewy” replaced the sexy French host, much to the girls disappointment, to run us though how to properly drink a Chardonnay. Apparently it needs to be warmed up somewhat to avoid that extra woody taste. By this stage I had so many wines, my taste buds were just about cooked. It was a fascinating tutorial nonetheless. Well done Chewy, you did a great job.

Last stop was Cheeky Monkey Brewing for a cleansing ale before we returned back to Busselton.

It was a full-on day with lots of wine beer and food. We all loved it.


Day Four (Wednesay) was Aidan and Ena’s last day with us. They were going to stay at Bettenay’s guest hose for a couple days to celebrate their anniversary.

I took my drone down the jetty foreshore and took some aerial photos and videos. I was hoping to see some dolphins and follow them with the drone, but no luck.

We went to Canal Rocks for sunset photos. The ocean was rough but the sunset was nothing to write home about. Dinner at Occy’s in Dunsborough before saying goodbye to Aidan and Ena and home to Busselton. Early to bed as we’re heading home tomorrow.


Day five, we cleaned up and left for home about 11am.

It really was a great holiday. Having Aidan, Ena and Anthony there meant there was lots of fun and laughs. I hope we can do it again next year.

Next trips are:

December 2020 – 2 night stay-cation in Perth for Christmas shopping

January 2021 – 4 Nights Camping in Augusta to celebrate our friend Susan’s 60th birthday.

Guilderton to York

I should point out, firstly, I didn’t actually travel from Guilderton to York.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts Australia’s borders are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so we’re taking the time to rediscover Western Australia. We took a long weekend and made short trips to Guilderton, North and York, East.

Guilderton

Guilderton is one hour (100km) North of Perth and is situated at the mouth of the Moore River.

It’s a sleepy tourist town with a caravan park and quite a few holiday homes. It doesn’t really cater for couples with its larger scale accommodation offerings, hence our day trip only. I guess we could camped if we really wanted to stay. It would be nice to come back with another family ans spend more time exploring the river and surrounding spots such as Lancelin.

Jane and I shared fish and chips from the General Store. At $11 it was delicious and ample enough for two. We sat on a bench overlooking the river. A couple of ducks waddled up and demanded their share.

The real attraction of the place is the river and beach. A boardwalk around the escarpment offers spectacular views over the river mouth. Of course the lookout wasn’t high enough for me so I got the drone out.

Further inland another boardwalk traverses the river.

York

On Monday we left early for our day trip to York. York is situated in the “wheatbelt” of Western Australia about 150km east of Perth. Its quite close to Toodyay, where we visited in July. The main reason we wanted to go is that the canola fields are blooming.

There has been some grumblings of the local farmers say that tourists are coming a trampling all their crops. There are some that allow visitors in for a fee. Jane and I preferred to find out own locations. So we found our own location and we ventured inside (umm… yeah trespassed) the fields and immersed ourselves in the yellow fields. We were careful not to harm any plants. Of course the drone came out to fly above the sea of gold.

Video here

Canola is also known as Rape Seed. Edible oil is made from the seed of the plant and is popular around the world for its Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids content and it also helps to cut cholesterol levels.

The best place to see the canola fields in the road between York and Northam, called the Northam-York Road of course. We took some gravel side roads to find a field that was remote and unfenced.

Greece Part 1

The azure water of the Mediterranean sea laps gently against the hull of our yacht. We sip our gin & tonics while our topless partners sun themselves on the deck. Its a beautiful warm day moored just of the coast on the island of Mykonos…

…is what I should be saying right now.

But sadly our Greece trip was ruined, like just about everything this year by Covid-19.

Instead we spent a few days in the South West of Western Australia at Eight Willows Retreat. We’re only allowed to travel within Western Australia until further notice. I guess we shouldn’t complain, at least we’re allowed to travel somewhere, unlike many other parts of the world. We have stayed at Eight Willows before and decided to come back for a 3 day family get away. Bettina didn’t want to give up any work, so it was just Bianca joining Jane and myself.

We booked a 2 bedroom villa right at the back of the property.

Chalet 23
Aerial View of Eight Willows Retreat
In the bush

As you can see I’m now the proud owner of a drone. I bought the Mavic Air 2 drone a few weeks ago and I’ve been dying to use it over come spectacular coast line.

We arrived Thursday afternoon, unpacked and settled in. That evening we headed to Canal Rocks to catch the sunset. We had some rain as we travelled down from Perth, but the evening broke up and the sunset was nice.

Sunset over Canal Rocks, Yallingup
The “Canal”
I was “too busy” to take photos of the girls

After the sun went down we headed into Dunsborough to have dinner at Clancy’s Fish Pub. Jane and I shared the seafood platter. Even though it said “for one”, it was ample for two of us. Even Bianca had some. I tried one of the local beers – Asam Boi Gose from Beerfarm. Its an unusually delicious sweet and sour Asian style beer.

We got back the unit for night cap and a spa bath for two.

What are you looking at!

We woke up lazily on Friday morning and after some bacon and eggs we headed to Injidup Bay for more flying around. It was a beautiful sunny day. I hadn’t been to Injidup before. It is renowned for its “Natural Spa” formation, where the waves come crashing over the rocks and empty like a waterfall into a rock pool.

We drove back to Margaret River and had lunch at the Cheeky Monkey Brewery.

The Chicken Wings were fantastic. The garden setting was very nice too.

Cheeky Monkeys

We stopped in at the Churchview winery to sample some of their offering on the way back back to the retreat. They had a nice (cheap) Shiraz and an interesting Zinfandel.

After a short rest we made our back to Margaret river for dinner at La Scarpetta Trattoria. This Italian restaurant is a local favourite and we had to wait over an hour for a table. We walked up the Settler’s Tavern for a drink while we waited. The food at La Scarpetta was delicious. We could see why the were so popular. The staff were efficient and very friendly.

Back to bed after another spa bath. Driving home tomorrow stopping at the Bunbury Farmers Market on the way of course.

Yeah its not Greece…but Western Australia is a pretty fine place to be nonetheless.

Toodyay yay yay

We had big travel plans this year. Three small trips to Bali and a three week extravaganza in Greece and Italy. including one week sailing around the Greek Isles (Cyclades). Enter Mr Covid.

2020 WTAF

With lock-downs easing in (Western) Australia we decided for the rest of the year we’ll travel around our own “back yard”. Well there’s no choice really. But of course we’re blessed to live in such a beautiful place as Western Australia – so quit yer whingin‘.

Day one – get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway…

We’d just bought a new car (2019 Mazda6 for those interested) and we were itching for a long drive. We decided to spend a weekend in the Avon Valley. On the spur of the moment we thought “lets go ballooning”. The have hot-air balloon charters from Northam. But we were too late and the weekend was already booked out. We decided to push on and booked a lovely Airbnb in Toodyay. Toodyay, situated in the heart of the Avon Valley is a small country town 100km east of Perth. Its an easy one and a half hour drive from Perth though the rolling green farmland.

The Studio was a nice little guesthouse in Toodyay booked though Airbnb. It was hosted by a lovely lady, Caroline who lived in the house attached to the Studio.

We arrived around lunchtime and unpacked – we’d seemed to packed enough for our european holiday rather than a sleepy weekender! Into the town for a pub-lunch. We shared a fish and chips at the Freemasons Hotel, one of the two pubs in Toodyay. Lunch was nice – the chef served the single serve of fish and chips on two dishes for us, which was a nice touch. After lunch we went back to the studio for a nap…hey I did say is was a sleepy weekender. We got up hungry again (Jane) and went back into town for dinner at the Spice & Grill. We shared a Prawn Curry. It was nice without being spectacular.

Day Two – what’s open?

Caroline met us on Sunday morning and told us of the history of the place and suggested some attractions in the surrounding towns. We decided to take Caroline’s advice to drive to New Norcia via Bolgart. Caroline suggested a nice cafe in Bolgart called “Trees“. We hadn’t had breakfast, so we were getting pretty peckish. Sadly Trees was closed when we got there. In fact there wasn’t a soul to been seen in the whole town. We pushed on to New Norcia. The drive was a pleasure through the rolling farmland. We were keeping an eye out for a nice spot to take some photos. Turning off the Bindi Bindi-Toodyay road we crossed the Railway. Jane likes railway track photos so we stopped for a photo shoot.

Shiny
Gucci feels

Jane was inspired by Gucci’s latest fashion looks and wanted to try to recreate the look.

When we got to the Great Northern Highway we we aghast to discover the road to New Norcia was closed. The GPS Navigator recalculated the journey to over an hour that took us through Bindoon. At this stage Jane was getting hangry and we decided to stop in Bindoon Bakehaus for a pie.

We travelled back to Toodyay through the Julimar State Forest, another one of Caroline’s suggestions. The new Mazda handled the winding narrow road beautifully. We detoured off the main road down a small track for another photoshoot.

We reached Toodyay and decided to press on through to Northam. Northam is a larger town about 25 km south east. I wanted to see the Silo Art. The Silo Art Trail is a series of painted grain silos throughout the whole of Australia. The silos in Northam were painted by London artist Phlegm and Atlanta native HENSE in April 2015.

In the town itself we stopped for a snack and drink. We found a Dome Cafe with a nice little surprise. It has a modern wine bar attached. We had a couple of cocktails and a side of chips. I had a gin and tonic with green chilli which was delicious. Jane had a couple of drinks including a margarita and passionfruit mimosa.

Cocktails at Dome, who would have thought?

It was getting towards dinner time, so we continued our journey to Grass Valley. A good friend of ours recommended the Grass Valley Tavern so we aimed the Mazda there. Of course the “theme of the day” was honoured and it was closed. Oh well back to Toodyay for dinner at the other pub the Victoria.

We shared a Chicken Burger and wings. It was pretty average. Wearily we made out way back to the studio for an early bedtime.

Day three – home

Monday morning we stayed long enough for Jane’s work (online) meeting. I packed our European trip’s luggage into the Mazda for the 100km trip home.

Although there were some disappointments with the trip, we both appreciated the weekend away. The Avon Valley is a beautiful region and we’ll definitely be back, perhaps we’ll get to the ballooning after all.

Eight Willows Retreat

We were lucky enough to be invited to spend a couple of days at Eight Willows Retreat by its owners and good friends Mike and Dorilyn.

Eight Willows is situated in Wilyabrup in Western Australia. Its about half way between Busselton and Margaret River. I’m lucky to live only three hours drive from this beautiful part of the world.

Jane and I arrived on Sunday afternoon and had the first day to ourselves. Being mates with the owners has its perks and we were treated to the “Residence“, which is the biggest house on the property. It is beautifully appointed with 4 large bedrooms, two bathrooms a massive kitchen, dining and living area.

Sunday afternoon we arrived , unpacked and explored the grounds.

Jordan at reception recommended an Italian place for dinner at Margaret River, so we made our way 24 kms south to La Scarpetta Trattoria. We couldn’t find parking close, so we parked further up the Bussell Highway. As we entered the restaurant, we realised it was actually Pizzica Pizzeria underneath the main La Scarpetta restaurant. We thought why not? we were already here. We ordered a pizza which turned out to be not that great.

We got ice creams on the way back. We opened a bottle of wine and watched TV before we were both dozing off. Country life caught up with us and we retired to bed.

The next morning we slept in (why not? again). We got up about 10 o’clock and decided to visit one of out favourite wineries, Woody Nook for a late breakfast. This was the third time Jane and I had been there. We always bought their Port, Nookie Delight. The breakfast was terrific and before we left we decided to reacquaint ourselves with their wines. We loved the Verdelho and as it was on special for $150/carton, we couldn’t resist – Christmas presents sorted! We also grabbed a few bottles of Nookie Delight.

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Christmas at Woody Nook

We arrived back at Eight Willows just after midday to find Mike and Dorilyn and their kids, Shaun and Stephanie (Fifi) had arrived in their caravan. It seemed strange to learn that the first night of their caravan holiday was spent in a 4 1/2 star resort. They were travelling onto Denmark, Esperance and Kalgoorlie before heading back to Perth for Christmas. Having grown up in Singapore, it will be a great experience for Shaun and Fifi to see some Aussie countryside.

After Mike and Dorilyn settled in we went for a walk up the back of the property to the winery next door, Knotting Hill. We sampled a few (well actually all) of their wines and bought two cartons between us. Jane loved the Muscat, so we bought a bottle for our port barrel. We noticed there was a tour group of Germans(?) and Americans there. We left at the same time, us on foot and them in a bus. Next stop was the Grove Distillery. It was just across the road.

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Sampling the wares of Notting Hill

When we arrived the tour bus was right behind us – we almost beat them on foot (and half sloshed). The Grove is not so typical on the area, as it specialises in spirits, such as Gin, Whisky and Rum. As we we were a little pooped from our walk we ordered Gin and Tonics all round. It was very refreshing. Mike and I followed up with some straight Rums. Mike had the Dark Rum, while I had the Spiced Rum.

We walked back through the bush to the resort.

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Bushies

We arrived at the function room and had a few drinks by the lake, while Mike talked to the staff. Shaun had his drone whizzing around. I was quite interested because I’m going to get one when we go sailing the Greek Islands next August. I looked so cool, I’m already drooling.

Back at the Residence, we had a barbecue for dinner (with a few wines of course). Mike cooked up a mountain of steaks and lamb chops. We filled our bellies and swapped BS stories about the afterlife. We went to bed relatively early as we both had long drives in the morning.

Up early for bacon and farm fresh eggs – and packing. We were both ready to leave at 8 am. Jane and I back to Perth. Mike, Dorilyn and the kids to Denmark (WA not Europe).

We can’t thank Mike and Dorilyn enough for the opportunity to stay at Eight Willows. Their generosity is so expansive. We’re indeed very lucky to call them our friends.

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Our hosts Mike and Dorilyn

Bali – Bogans to Celebrities in six days

Yep Bali again.

This time it was a trip of contrasts. The first three days we did it Bogan style in Legian. The last three days we traded the Bintang singlets for collared shirts in Nusa Dua.

Part 1 – Legian

We arrived late on Friday night, picked up as usual by Made and deposited at the Sun Island Hotel. We had stayed at the Sun Island before. It’s in a great location, cheap, clean and well appointed. This time Bettina and Bianca joined Jane and I. We had two rooms on the same level – upgraded to Deluxe! At $47 per room per night – its great value.

We did the normal Aussie Bogan things.

  • Chilled at the pool (sneakily using our own Rum to mix with the coke we bought at the pool bar)
  • Shop for cheap clothes (Bintang singlets for me)
  • Massages and foot scrubs
  • Looked at (every single) handbags on Legian Rd.
  • Eat and drink (repeat)
  • Staying up to 1 am singing Karaoke with new “Indo-friends” (Bettina and Bianca only)

 

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Row 1 – First Class AirAsia style

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Bogan’s diet

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Sun Island Hotel has a pretty good pool

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Sunset at the pool

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Foot treatments

 

Part 2 – Nusa Dua

After three days, we were sick of the bogan life and upgraded ourselves to celebrity status, checking in the the Hilton Bali Resort.

We were meeting our friends Clive and Susan. Clive, now retired, worked many years in the hotel business and had stayed at the Hilton before. His son got married there. He recommended it, so we joined them.

Made picked us up from the Sun Island drove us to The Hilton at Nusa Dua. Entering the hotel lobby we were all awestruck by the stunning view over the ocean. As we were checking in again we were mesmerised by the view behind the receptionists.

Our rooms were on the same floor as the reception. Level 6 on our wing – Level 15 on the cliff tower wing – it was confusing at first, but we soon understood it. Either way we were high up and had spectacular views. The room was huge and beautiful. The bed was the biggest I’d ever seen.

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Room 2609

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View from our balcony

We had a big balcony with sweeping views over the jungle and ocean. We could see lots of monkeys in the jungle. The hotel advised us to keep our balcony doors closed, because the monkeys were known to “pay a visit”.

We had lunch at the The Shore restaurant. Again this was stunning, right on the beach. It was a hot day, but the breeze coming off the ocean made it perfect.

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Bianca trying to get a job in Hilton Marketing Dept

We then chilled by the pool for the rest of the day then got changed for dinner at the hotel’s Indonesian restaurant Paon Bali. The food was nice, but quite expensive for Balinese food. The setting was beautiful on the lawn, with the sound of the ocean in the background.

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Paon Bali Restaurant

We headed back to the room and waited for Clive to arrive.

He arrived about 10.30 pm without Susan as she was committed to her work and couldn’t make the flight. She would join us the next day. He came to our room with a bottle of Wild Turkey. We also had a couple of cigars and talked BS for a couple of hours before hitting the sack. It was a great way to round out the day.

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Old Boys

Next morning we experienced the Hilton Breakfast. Wow – what a spread!

They had everything – except, to Bettina’s dismay, guava juice, aka “Fancy Pink Juice”. She soon got over it when she seen everything else.

Susan was arriving at 12.30. Jane asked Made to pick her from the airport and also do some shopping on the way. Some drinks and snacks for the kids and a couple more cigars for the bigger kids.

When Susan arrived she joined us at the pool for drinks and the obligatory photo session.

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Under the waterfall

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Happy Hour

We had dinner at the “Grain” restaurant which offered a seafood buffet. At around $50 each plus drinks this was an extravagance in Bali. It was a little disappointing with some of the fish and prawns dry and tough. The sashimi was quite good though. The highlight of the night however was the live band. Just a simple trio, singing the classics. Clive requested an old Tom Jones song. They didn’t know it, but sang Delilah instead. It went down a treat with the whole restaurant singing along…

My my my Delilah
Why why why Delilah…

Bettina and Bianca got involved singing along with the band to “Dancing Queen”.

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Bianca singing along with “Survivor Sandra”

Back at Clive and Susan’s room for a night cap before an early bed. It’s been an exhausting day sitting around doing nothing.

The next day Made took us all back to Legian for the girls to get facials and look at (even more) bags. On the way back we stopped at Mulia resort for lunch. Mulia is even more fancier than the Hilton. Right from the entrance you can feel the opulence. We made our way down towards the beach and found the Soleil Cafe. We all had the “M Burger” and a Bintang. All agreed it was a first class burger.

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Soleil cafe at the Mulia resort

Back at the Hotel in time for Susan to pack. Her whirlwind visit was over.

After she left, Clive met us at the pool for happy hour.  We had a few beers and cocktails and transferred to the Shore restaurant to share a pizza.

We finished the Wild Turkey with more cigars back at our room to top off a wonderful couple of days.

On our final day we had  a late breakfast and went the beach and pool for some more photos. The hotel allowed us a late check-out at 1pm.

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Splish Splosh

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View from the lookout

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15th floor Cliff Tower

Made took us to the airport and we said Goodbye to Bali once again.

We’ll be back May and June 2020.

 

 

 

Lords here we come. Part 5 – Home and wrap up

Saturday morning we said goodbye to England and made our way to London Heathrow for the long trip home to Perth.

Gordon hugged his brother, perhaps for the last time and said his emotional goodbye. It was great to meet Rendel and I very much appreciate the hospitality he and Mandy showed us on this trip. Many thanks to Rendel’s “in-laws” too, especially Nick who drove us from the Airport to Stalbridge and having us for drinks to meet his wife and brother Hugo. Also thank you to Hugh and Colleen who graciously opened their home to us for our Lords adventure in London. We met so many generous and kind “poms” – it (almost) seems a shame that we have to beat them in the Ashes.

We boarded our seven hour flight to Doha trying the “seats in the middle” trick again. Again no luck as the plane was full. We had a five hour stopover in Doha where we used the time to pick up pasalubongs for our loved ones and I wrote some more of my blog.

The Qatar airways A380 to Perth was perhaps the longest and more tiring trip we had and we prayed to the airline gods that we could have the extra space. At last the gods smiled upon us and we had no one sitting beside us for the 11 hour trip. 1 out 4!

11 hours later…

We cruised into Perth about 6.30 pm missing the Fremantle Docker’s last home game for the season. We got a good view of the stadium as we approached the runway.

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Dockers getting beaten by Essendon

 

What a week! Its amazing what we packed into those few days. The Highlight was of course the cricket at Lords. My number one bucket list item fulfilled. Second was seeing the sights of Dorset. This was an unexpected day out for me and I loved the English countryside. The train from Dorset to London, riding the tubes, walking over the Thames and catching up with my old mate Chris were all special moments.

I loved every minute of the trip and can’t wait to get back and explore more of England and the rest of the UK.

Special thanks should go to my great buddy Gordon for travelling with me. Quite a different experience travelling with a friend rather than a partner. We had plenty of laughs and shared some truly memorable moments together. Thanks mate!

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Many many G&Ts shared. Cheers!

Oh yeah Jane got her designer bag from Stalbridge…

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The only Dike and Sons bag in Australia

 

Lords here we come. Test day 2 in detail.

If you’re not a cricket nut, please close this page and get on with whatever trivial task you may have in your meaningless life. There’s nothing here for you today.

Have they gone?

Good. Now me serve you this delicious day of test match cricket.


We have already got to Lords and we’ve taken our seats early to witness the Ruth Strauss Foundation day ceremonies. Ruth Strauss, the wife of former England captain Andrew died of a rare form of lung cancer. This day was a fund raiser for her foundation. Patrons were asked to wear red for the day. Players entered the field and presented their caps to Andrew Strauss to be auctioned later. Andrew Strauss rang the bell and everyone stood holding up their red 4/6 cards.

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Ruth Strauss ceremony

 

Joe Root tossed the coin and Tim Paine called called “tails”. Tails it was and Australia chose to bowl first. This took many “experts” by surprise, but I though it was the right decision on a test that is sure to be cut short by the weather. Australia, already 1-0 up in the series could not afford to bat and get skittled for a small score.

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Australia won the toss and sent England in

The teams took the field and at 11 am the cricket started – at last!

Pat Cummins took the first over from the members end and bowled to Rory Burns.

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First Ball Cummins to Burns

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Defended by Burns

First over was a maiden.

Josh Hazlewood took the new ball from the Nursery end. Bowling to Jason Roy he beat the bat a number of times. I saw the fourth ball thought my camera lens. It caught the edge and was gleefully accepted by Tim Paine behind the stumps – England 1-0 – dream Start for the Aussies!

Roy c Paine b Hazlewood 0. England 1/0

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Roy c Paine b Hazlewood 0

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Aussies celebrate England 1/0

This brought Joe Root to the wicket. Root is England’s best batsman and the Australians would be keen to get him early.

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Hazlewood was bowling beautifully. right on the spot moving the ball both ways off the seam. Root was looking quite solid, playing the ball very late in his customary manner. In Hazlewood’s fourth over he beat the bat again, but this time it thumped into Root’s pad plumb in front. Root considers reviewing the decision but turns and walks slowly back to the members. Got him!

Root lbw b Hazlewood 14. England 26/2

Joe Denly come to the crease.

Burns was surviving. Missing the ball on numerous occasions, even taking a few on the body. His technique is very unusual and doesn’t allow easy evasion of the short balls.

Peter Siddle replaced Cummins at the Members end but looked out of sorts. His usual accuracy not there in his opening spell. Nathan Lyon was also tried quite early without success.

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Lyon to Burns before Lunch

England go to Lunch 76/2. Session to Australia.

During lunch we caught up with Rendel, Rob and his wife for a drink at the Nursery.

After lunch Hazlewood was brought on back at the Nursery end and removed Denly caught behind.

Denly c Paine b Hazlewood 30. England 92/3

Jos Buttler replaced Denly.

Burns was still there and brought up his 50 in 199 balls. His luck ran out however and was brilliantly caught by Bancroft at short leg off Cummins for 53. What a catch by Bancroft! Diving full stretch to his left this ball seemed to bobble in hand before clutching it tight. It happened so quick the umpires referred it to the 3rd umpire for verification. The slow motion replay showed what a great catch it really was.

Burns c Bancroft b Cummins 53. England 116/4

Ben Stokes comes to the crease. another danger man for the Aussies.

Drinks in the middle session it was my shout for the beer. I made my way down the grandstand and to the Gents. While I was doing my business a big cheer went up from the crowd. Other guys in the toilet asked “what happened – boundary or wicket?”. Another guy said “sounded like a few groans in that”. Sure enough Buttler was out caught behind off Siddle.

Buttler c Paine b Siddle 12. England 136/5

Out comes Jonny Bairstow.  England were teetering on the brink here. Will he rescue England yet again?

Stokes looked ominous cracking 3 boundaries, but only lasted 22 balls succumbing to Lyon, trapped in front of the wicket.

Stokes lbw Lyon 13. England 138/6

Australia are into the tail with Chris Woakes striding to the crease.

Bairstow and Woakes safely guided England to Tea at 201/6

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Bairstow flirting with the leg slip

Shortly after Tea the fine partnership between Bairstow and Woakes was broken with Woakes gloving a ball down the leg side to be caught by the Australian captain. Woakes reviewed the decision but the replays show a clear touch on his glove. Bairstow and Woakes put on 63 runs and pulled England out of a dangerous position.

Woakes c Paine b Cummins 32. England 210/7

New kid Jofra Archer came to the crease with a huge cheer from the crowd. This was Archer’s test debut and English fans had great expectations for the 24 yo Barbados born speedster. England fans were waiting on his bowling debut rather than his batting however. Can he stick around with Bairstow to take England to a decent score?

Short answer: “no”. He took the long handle and scored a couple of boundaries before getting himself tangled up and spooning a leading edge off Cummins to Khawaja  at Gully.

Archer c Khawaja b Cummins 12. England 230/8

Stuart Broad came in. Broad has an annoying habit of hanging around and scoring a few runs when Australia least need it. We were hoping he wouldn’t do it again. He followed Archer’s template with a couple of boundaries of 15 balls before being bowled by Lyon.

Broad b Lyon 11. England 251/9

Bairstow was batting well. England are lucky to have such a reliable batsman at number 7. He brought his 50 off 82 balls with 7 boundaries. He looked in control from his very first ball. Running out of partners he looked to score runs quickly and mistimed a slog-sweep off Lyon to pick out Khawaja at deep square leg. That’s the end of the English innings. Jack Leach remained not out 0.

Bairstow c Khawaja b Lyon 52. England 258 all out

A great effort from all the Aussie bowlers sharing the wickets. Cummins, Hazlewood and Lyon getting 3 each and Siddle with 1. The standout bowler was Hazlewood with a brilliant opening spell in the first session. His first two wickets set up a difficult day for the home side.

As for the batting, only Jonny Bairstow impressed with his 52. Burns scored 53 but never looked comfortable and was lucky to survive as long as he did. Chris Woakes provided great support to Bairstow with 32.

Is 258 enough? A tricky hour of play remained for the Australian openers. David Warner and Cameron Bancroft strode to the pitch to the boos of the English “fans”.

The booing of Warner, Bancroft and Steve Smith saddened me. I expected more from the Lords crowd. Warner, Bancroft and Smith served their sentences. They are very good players and don’t deserve booing.

Smith has proven the booing hasn’t affected his batting with two brilliant centuries in the first test. He’s such a talented batsman and showed tremendous mental strength to block out the crowd’s hostility. Warner on the other hand has struggled on this tour. Again an extremely talented batsman, but his mental game is yet to be proven. Broad has had his measure in recent times. The crowd were perched on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

Stuart Broad took the opening over from the Members end, while Jofra Archer made his much anticipated bowling debut into the breeze from the Nursery end. Both bowled well moving the ball off the seam beating the batsmen on numerous occasions. When Archer took the ball for the second over the English fans cheered loudly. Was he the one to bring the Ashes back to England?

The opening stand lasted 4.2 overs and 11 runs before Broad did it again with a ball sharply nipping back through Warner’s “gate” to clip the leg stump. It was the continuance of a disappointing Ashes campaign for Warner. Perhaps the demons are still in his head.

Warner b Broad 3. Australia 11/1

Archer bowled fast and did beat the bat, but he’d have to wait another day to claim his first wicket. Bancroft and Khawaja steered Australia through to Stumps without further loss.

Australia 30/1 (13.0 overs) (Bancroft 5, Khawaja 18)

Father time removed the bails to end a marvellous day of test cricket. What a thrill for me personally to witness this. It will live forever in my memory – Ashes test at Lords.

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Merv Hughes and his touring party

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The Aussie balcony

 

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The Rest of the match

I didn’t have tickets for the rest of the match and we made our way back to Perth on Friday. The weather forecast for the remaining days wasn’t good.

Day 3

Australia resumed their innings at the start of play. Bancroft, Khwaha and Travis Head all fell before rain forced an Early Lunch. Steve Smith 13 and Matthew Wade yet to score were the not out batsman. Bancroft was Archer’s first test wicket. The Lunch score of 80/4 became the stumps score as the rain persisted.

Australia  80/4 (37.1 overs) (Smith 13, Wade 0)

Day 4

Australia resumed their innings at the start of play. Wade was out for 6 early in the session. Smith was solid as ever and was provided good support from Tim Paine to take the partnership to Lunch at 155/5. Smith brought up his 50 in 107 balls.

Paine fell shortly after Lunch for 23 when the score was 162. Cummins also provided a useful partnership with Smith and took the score passed 200. With the new ball 5 or so overs away, Archer was cut loose and gave one of the most fiery spells of bowling ever seen. He struck Smith on the forearm which caused a great deal of discomfort. After a short delay Smith resumed the battle. This was followed up by even more hostile bowling with Archer hitting Smith in the neck just below his helmet. Smith immediately fell flat to the ground and the cricket world held it’s breath. Medical staff rushed to his assistance. Smith got to his feet while the doctor assessed him for concussion. The right decision was made and Smith left the ground Retired Hurt 80 no. Further concussion tests would be carried out in the dressing room.

Siddle came out as the replacement to face the heat of Archer. He fell to Woakes for 6 after taking the score to 218. Still 40 runs behind.

Steve Smith returned to the crease to great applause and some booing. Such a shame to hear the booing – especially for such a courageous act to come out and face Archer and take Australia to a first inning lead. Smith showed his intent and hit Archer for consecutive boundaries. Fantastic stuff! Smith appeared to have no effects from being struck in the head – until he offered no shot to a Woakes off-cutter and was caught plumb in front for 92. Very un-Smith like – perhaps the knock on the head did indeed have some effect.

Lyon, Hazlewood and Cummins took the score to 250 to trail by 8 runs on the first innings. Tea was taken

Australia 250 All out

The last session was going to be tricky for the English openers. Jason Roy again proving that he’s probably not a test player was out in the 5 over c&b Cummins. This brought the English captain to the crease. He lasted just one ball nicking Cummins through to the ‘keeper. Australia had their tails up having England 9/2.

Joe Denly and Rory Burns restored some order with a 55 run partnership, but both fell in the 19th and 21st overs to be 71/4. Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes took England to stumps at 96/4. This set up Day 5 for a possible result. Both sides have a sniff – but a draw still seemed the most likely result.

England 96/4 (32.2 overs) (Stokes 16, Buttler 10)

Day 5

Rain again delayed the start of play.

Marnus Labuschagne replaces Steve Smith under the new concussion law. Smith would play no more part in the game and Labuschagne would bat in his place.

Stokes (115 no) , Buttler (31) and Bairstow 30 no) batted well and took England to 258/8 before they declared setting Australia 267 to win with around 50 overs remaining in the day. Either side could still win.

England 258/5d (71 overs) (Stokes 115 no, Bairstow 30 no)

Would Australia risk going for the win? To go 2-0 would be almost an Ashes saver. Risking handing over the game to England however would undo all the great work in the 1st test.

Warner and Bancroft took the field to begin the climax to this enthralling game. Again Warner failed to impress and was caught in the gully by Burns off Archer for 5. Khawaja falls 2 overs later to Archer again – perhaps Archer is one to turn the Ashes for England!

In comes Smith’s replacement Marnus Labuschagne. How nervous would this young man be?

Bancroft lasts to the 14th over and is LBW to the spin of Jack Leach. Australia 47/3 and beginning to get anxious.  Travis Head joins Labuschagne and together bring Australia out of trouble with a 85 run stand. Labuschagne is eventually out for 59 – a gutsy innings and probably saved Australia’s bacon along with Travis Head’s 42 no. Wade and Paine fell cheaply but the match was saved and ended in a draw.

Australia 154/6 (47.3 overs) (Head 32 no, Cummins 1 no)

Match Drawn

Player of the match: Ben Stokes

Points: England 8: Australia 8

How can a game go for five days – end in a draw – and be super exciting? Don’t know – just is.

ESPN Match Scorecard